Monday, July 20, 2009

The Ramen Girl

I can't help compare this film to Tanpopo, a slightly overrated jmovie classic about cooking ramen. If you can get your hands on it, its definitely worth watching. Just make sure there's a ramen store open near you after watching. Ramen Girl stars Brittany Murphy as Abby, a neurotic girl who goes to Tokyo to live with her boyfriend only to have him break up with her. She find no joy in her job as an English proofreader and is struggling to to find direction in her life when she stumbles upon a ramen store nearby and decides to learn how to make ramen from the cook, Maezumi (Toshiyuki Nishida). I have no idea why Abby would want to quit such an easy job. She just needed a pasokon to surf the net all day and can have three hour lunches all the time. Plus no one's going to tell her how to do her job.

One thing that bugged me about this show was that there were certain parts which seemed very... 'disneyfied' like the magical light coming out of the ramen shop when she sees it for the first time or the huge gust of wind when she first declares wanting to cook ramen. It sort of fits the magical them of ramen being able to make people laugh or cry but those two scenes just really bothered me.

I never warmed up to Abby. Yes, she was treated like a slave (according to her standards) by Maezumi but how can she not speak decent Japanese working there for a year? I don't know whether its Brittany Murphy's acting or the script. Normally in these type of master-student shows, you get the whiny student and stern master who hate each other and after the training montage, they begrudgingly respect each other and the audience like both characters. Its supposed to be a failproof plotline. I think it has to do with the fact that Abby doesn't really change or she doesn't show that she has. They really needed to show her becoming competent in Japanese and perhaps comedic scene of her understanding a Japanese speaker and pretending not to. She needed to become slightly Japanese yet at the end she seems as American as she was in the beginning.

The truck driver from Tanpopo makes a cameo. I shall ignore the idea that this movie is a homage to Tanpopo cause that would be insulting.

Toshiyuki Nishida does a decent job as the overbearing boss Maezumi. Nothing we haven't seen from him before. He provides most of the laughs and its not his fault that the master student relationship is kind of bland. I am not part of the audience this movie is made for, which are westerners who have little or no knowledge of Japan. Maybe that's why Abby seems to stay a tourist during her one year working as a ramen girl. For further proof, look at the megami no ramen that she made. If there's one thing I hate, its asian food catering to 'western tastes'. Never go to a Japanese eatery where the food has too many colours. Corn and tomatoes in ramen????!!! WTF????? What further proof does one need to show that Abby doesn't really love ramen. She just wants to fuck it up. That the crying whiny girl just wants to impose her tastes on a staple Japanese food.

If there's a reason to watch ramen girl, its just to see a 'Japanese' movie written and directed by gaijin aimed at the gaijin market. Disregarding my prejudices, the movie is uneven. The romance bit felt tacked on although so much time was spent on it. Its as if the writer had a great concept but struggled to find a voice for the movie and so branched in every direction. If there is a Japanese cut, I'd be interested just to see the difference. Avoid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Heaven's Door? It's a japanese movie written? and directed by Gaijin that's probably a lot better... if nothing else the soundtrack is good